Champions League fixtures as PSG head to Madrid with advantage

Real Madrid’s head coach Carlo Ancelotti applauds the fans after the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Real Sociedad at Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday March 5, 2022. Real Madrid won the match 4-1. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

The English clubs of Liverpool and Manchester City occupy dominant positions. Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich still have their work cut out for them.

The top four places in the Champions League quarter-finals are up for grabs this week, with most of the competition’s title favorites in action.

Back to the return matches of the round of 16:




Thomas Müller’s first own goal in his long career at Bayern Munich disrupted what should have been relatively straightforward preparation for the visit of Austrian champions Salzburg on Tuesday. Müller scored in the wrong goal for Bayer Leverkusen to draw 1-1 in their 407th Bundesliga appearance on Saturday when it was apparent communication between the German league leaders was a problem. Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, who replaces the injured Manuel Neuer, said he told Müller he had covered Kerem Demirbay’s harmless cross but that Müller was already close to returning it. Dayot Upamecano also produced an error-strewn performance. in defence, where any mistakes on Tuesday will likely be punished by Salzburg’s German striker Karim Adeyemi, a reported target for Borussia Dortmund next season. Salzburg, who held Bayern to a 1-1 draw in their opener, prepared for the return to Munich with a comfortable 4-0 win at SCR Altach. Bayern struggled with the rhythm of the Austrian side in the first leg before Kingsley Coman saved a draw for the Bavarians at the last minute.


There is growing talk of a possible quadruple of titles for Liverpool, who have already won the League Cup, are in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and have approached Manchester City in the race for the Premier title League. The Reds’ involvement in the Champions League is set to extend into next month after late goals from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah at the San Siro gave Liverpool a handy advantage to bring back to Anfield, where Liverpool are notoriously difficult to get to. beat, especially on big European nights. . Liverpool are unbeaten in all competitions in 2022 and have perhaps their strongest squad under Jürgen Klopp, with the German coach having plenty of attacking options. Klopp’s big decision could be who to start with Diogo Jota and new signing Luis Diaz alongside Sadio Mane and Salah. Inter’s loss to Liverpool kicked off a four-game goalless streak for the Nerazzurri. They went more than 400 minutes without scoring before ending their goal drought in spectacular fashion on Friday with a 5-0 win over bottom-placed Salernitana. Lautaro Martínez scored a hat trick in that game but he hasn’t scored in the Champions League since 2020.




Holding a big lead from the first leg, City have the luxury of being able to rotate their players amid a busy run of fixtures across three competitions as the season draws to a close. Defense is the area where Pep Guardiola has few options, however, with right-back Kyle Walker serving game two of his three-game suspension, Ruben Dias out for up to six weeks with a hamstring problem and fellow centre-back Nathan Ake is also nursing an injury. It’s up front that Guardiola could make changes, with the game coming three days after the Manchester derby in the Premier League – with City beating United 4-1 – and players like Gabriel Jesus and Jack Grealish looking for playing time after returning from injury. City will reach the quarter-finals for the fifth consecutive season unless something sensational is produced by Sporting, who are more likely to enter the game in damage limitation mode after their beating three weeks earlier in Portugal. Since then, Sporting have lost at home to Porto in the first leg of the Portuguese Cup semi-finals.


Real Madrid enter the second leg against PSG with manager Carlo Ancelotti having to find a way to set up his midfield. Casemiro is suspended and Toni Kroos and Federico Valverde are listed as questionable due to health issues. Valverde is more likely to be available after missing Saturday’s Spanish league game against Real Sociedad with flu symptoms, but Kroos is expected to be out with a muscle injury. Casemiro played a key role in Madrid’s 4-1 win over Sociedad, when he featured alongside French youngsters Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modric. Left-back Ferland Mendy is also out through suspension. PSG have prepared for the trip to Spain by losing for just the third time in 27 French league games this season – to second-placed Nice. Coach Mauricio Pochettino is hoping to have right-back Achraf Hakimi (thigh), Argentina midfielder Leandro Paredes (groin), Spain midfielder Ander Herrera (eye infection) to face Madrid. An improvised backline looked vulnerable against Nice. Pochettino clearly had the European game on his mind as he rested defenders Presnel Kimpembe and Nuno Mendes. Kylian Mbappé hasn’t played due to suspension, so he’ll be fresh to find his electric rhythm against Madrid and join Lionel Messi. Reaching the final like in 2020 is where PSG want to be in May – and winning the Champions League, for Qatari ownership, for the first time.


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Christy J. Olson